The Flag in the Window

Let me open by saying I find it funny. I find it fucking hilarious. All you can see from the ground outside is a field of red looking into my bathroom window. Red.

The hammer and sickle are hidden by a strip of red vinyl.

So it’s a Soviet flag. Yes, a Soviet flag hanging in my bathroom window, acting as a curtain so that you can’t see me pissing from the alley behind my house. So I ask, would people rather see me letting loose in all my glory, or a field of red?

Why do I have a Soviet flag at all?

It’s a fair question, and one I have an answer to. I’ve always been interested in Soviet history, mainly because it was supposedly based on the Marx-Engels Communist Manifesto. This is the first and greatest misconception.

Late in his life, when Karl Marx was asked what he thought about the rising tide of so-called Marxists in Central and Eastern Europe, he quickly responded: “If anything is certain, it is that I myself am not a Marxist.” Marx’s ideological framework was being twisted long before the rise of the Soviet Union, even before his death.

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known to the world as Lenin, was a fiery speaker with fiery ideas. He had read Marx, but he disagreed on several of his assumptions about the transistion from capitalism to communism. The major issue was Marx’s belief that the will of the people to stop serving the capitalist society would happen spontaneously and en masse. Lenin disagreed, saying that the great body of people would never come to the conclusion to free themselves from serving the aristocracy. Lenin believed that a vanguard party consisting of part intellectual elite and part strongarm was necessary to invoke, organize, and direct the people to a new life.

Lenin placed himself at the head of this vanguard party, employing a carefully woven cast of scholars and bullies to lead the masses to revolution. In forming this vanguard party, Lenin had done two things:

1) He strayed from the central message of Marxist philosophy, which was that all socio-economic systems go through changes according to the limitations of each ideological phase. Marx’s point was that capitalism would eventually find its ceiling, which would necessitate a major change in economic and governmental processes. Marx did not believe in a revolution agitated by a particular body of people (Lenin’s vanguard, for instance), and knew that such a revolution would not equate to liberation of the masses, but instead would simply be a changing of the reins.

2) In his organization of an elite body directing the revolution, Lenin had not only taken the people’s revolution out of the hands of the people, but he also created the need for a forceful arm of the vanguard party which would later bring the rise of one of history’s greatest tyrants–Stalin.

What started as a socio-political evolutionary theory by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels grew into Lenin’s means of commanding the masses via the vanguard party. Armed with the promise of “freeing the people,” Lenin and his party led rallies and raids against the weakening Czarist regime.

Marx’s framework of communism was NEVER followed, because Marxist communism never required a revolution fed by blood and fire. This was something Lenin added on later. Lenin’s belief that force was necessary to change only continued the enslavement of the people, especially after Lenin was replaced by the charismatic and brilliantly insane Josef Stalin.

Stalin was even less a Marxist than his predecessor. While making the people believe he had freed them, Stalin committed mass murder on a unmatched scale, even when compared to the Nazi Holocaust.

So what’s my point?

My point is that when the masses are under-educated, any ideology can be twisted into a source of amassed power, greed, and death. Marx had never intended for a bloody Russian revolution or the purging of millions of innocent Eastern Europeans. Because Lenin had strayed from the Marxist ideology by using brute force and rhetoric to sway the masses into his favor, communism became known as a great evil, even though true Marxist Communism has never seen the light of day.

So why do I hang the Soviet Flag in my Bathroom?

To remind the American people of what happens to societies who forget themselves by simply following thier leaders. Democracy is an philosophical ideal aimed at providing the masses with the power to rule themselves by their own individual wills, but it only works if the constituents of the Democracy are policing their own government every step of the way.

There are people who blindly support those in power, even if those in power are in the wrong. It happened when Stalin led the Soviet Union, and it’s happening in this country (albeit to a lesser extent) even as I write this. Those of us who question the motives of the Bush regime are called unpatriotic by the ones blindly following the administration. It’s the other way around.

It is the responsibility of the American citizen to speak out against those in power, especially when they’re killing our brothers and sisters in an unwinnable gutter war overseas. It is the responsibility of the American citizen to criticize the government, especially when our leaders lie to us and make federal decisions for personal gain. When our country was founded by our forefathers, the people did not answer to the government; the government answered to its people. This is the only way to maintain a healthy democracy. Anything less decays into a corrupt oligarchy.

The ones attempting to silence the opposition with cries of blind nationalism are the tyrants in this country, just as the opposition is silenced in every tyranny since the beginning of civilization.

So why do I have a Soviet Flag hanging in my bathroom?

Two reasons:

1) So you can’t see me taking a piss in my bathroom,
and
2) To remind us of what we become when blindly follow our leaders.

Riff

Doesn’t get picked up well on the cell phone…

this is an audio post - click to play

Life after a half year

Toward the end of October, I will have been here for six months. How appropriate then, that around that same time I will have had my name on six issues of Milford Magazine: two as editorial assistant, two as associate editor, and two as managing editor.

I’m happy. For the first time in a long time, I’m really happy. Not that manic kind of wave happy that hits you all at once like a sugar high before you dive back down into the depths of cynicism, but a genuine lasting sense of progress and good direction. Wherever it is I’ll be in three years or five years or ten years, this is really the jumping off point. This is really the start of whatever I decide I’m going to do with the rest of my life.

Some people could argue that what you do in one moment has nothing to do with what you’re going to be doing in the next. I don’t know how they could make that argument, but they’ll make it. In any case, I disagree. I can remember my trip to Spain in 1998 and how it affected the last two years of my life in high school. I can remember a tranisition in those last two years that took me through a frightening yet necessary 3 year void. I can remember being at the lowest point in my emotional life and moving to Missouri for a couple of months to revive myself. I can remember coming back to Canandaigua with a purpose and a reason to change the person I was.

It’s been a slow process full of growing pains, but it was all necessary. The alterations, the drops, the climbs: everything led me to here. Even what I do now–even the words I write in this post will alter some kind of direction I take for the rest of my life. My path.

People always talk about how they stray from the path, but no one really does. You’re always on your path, because everything you’ve done has in some aspect had an effect on what you will do.

This is how free will and determinism get along just fine. You have choices to make, and you make those choices–but ultimately every choice you make will lead to something you need to experience for one reason or another.

I walk around Milford in the evening, and I can feel the pull of winter taking us into the fall. I always smell the peak of summer when it hits–it was about two weeks ago.

I remember what Jim said when I was working at the Winery. After working a 15-hour shift (shift+overtime 3rd) we were both walking out into the cold December morning,
talking about what we were going to do. I wanted to reapply to school (though I still wasn’t sure why) and Jim had said something about wanting to move. We both agreed, though–we’d be at the winery for one more year.

I always wonder how many people take “one more year” to mean it. I certainly didn’t. There were times when I thought I was going to be at the winery for five years. Ten. I had no idea what was going to happen, just as I have no idea now. I can only make plans, point myself in directions, and hope for the best.

So far, my calm, quiet, and forever wise goddess known as fate has led me in the right direction, even when I don’t see the path clearly and curse her for forcing me to learn the more painful lessons in life.

Sometimes, on nights like these when I take a walk and wander back to the office to write a blog post, pulling in the beauty of the area and the sting of fall as I pass through the night with a hooded sweatshirt and a cigarette, I just look up at the sky and whisper “thank you.”

I said it before: even if there is no great Gaia that I’m thanking, even if I’m directing my thoughts to an absolute nothingness that I personify as a femininity I call fate, there’s no harm in gratitude– especially when it’s directed at my own perceived personification of the force that guides all things.